Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.

Chapter Five Hundred and Forty-nine : After dinner


Monday evening — 8:25 p.m.

“My beloved is calling for me,” Hecate said. Standing up from the dinner table, she lifted Cleo from her lap. “I must be going.”

Hecate kissed Cleo’s head. She leaned down to kiss Heather’s cheek.

“I will return,” Hecate said.

Hecate took a few steps away where she could speak with Cleo in private.

“That was fast,” Jill whispered to Heather.

“You mean, Gando Peaches?” Heather asked.

Jill, Tanesha, Sandy, and Aden nodded.

“She’s always been like that,” Heather said. “It’s part of her magic. The appropriate partner is drawn to her the moment she enters the world. It’s just how it is. She can grant this as a blessing or a gift.”

Heather shrugged.

“Too fast for me,” Heather said. “But don’t worry. They will live out his life very joyfully.”

Hecate threw Heather a smile and kept walking.

“Thank you,” Tanesha said as she passed.

“My pleasure, dear one,” Hecate said.

Tanesha blushed, and Hecate smiled. Hecate grabbed a cupcake from the tray that Jacob was holding.

“Take two,” Jacob said. “Ganny likes the chocolate. The dark one.”

Grinning, she took a chocolate cupcake and walked out of the dining room.

Pierre Semaines, Nelson’s father, watched Hecate go. He was sitting with Nelson and their neighbor Mr. Matchel. He glanced at Nelson’s neighbor. Rough around the edges, the elderly man had been a pleasant enough dinner companion. Pierre was glad that he’d been there for the frank conversations about sexual “preference.” It was awkward and, at times, uncomfortable, but they had all survived. It seemed like the elderly man had actually enjoyed his dinner and the barrier was defrosting. Mission accomplished.

“Dessert?” Jacob asked. He set down a tray of cupcakes in the center of the table. “We have chocolate and vanilla.”

Jacob glanced at Sandy and she nodded.

“I should study,” Tanesha said.

Tanesha nodded to Fin, who stood up. Tink, Charlie, Noelle, and Nash stood at the same time, each taking a cupcake with them. They left for the study room down stairs. Jill touched Katy’s shoulder and she nodded. The little girl had told her mother that she wanted to spend more time with the older kids to figure out what it would be like to be older.

“I have to do my reading,” Katy said, as she slid off her chair.

She ran after the older kids. Edie had taken the infants upstairs to the loft, and Honey’s daughter Maggie was having a sleep over for all of the toddlers. So, Honey and the wild bunch, as they were fondly called, were in her apartment. The remaining adults had a chance to relax over their coffee and dessert.

“I wonder if you would mind helping me home,” Mr. Matchel said to Nelson.

“Of course,” Nelson said.

Nelson glanced at Blane, and Blane got up. Blane helped the elderly man to his feet.

“I’ll see you tomorrow for your acupuncture treatment,” Blane said.

“At my house?” Mr. Matchel said. “You’re sure?”

“It’s easy,” Blane said. “Just a walk across the street.”

“For you,” Mr. Matchel said, with a chuckle.

The elderly man shook Blane’s hand. Nelson took his elbow, and they started toward the door. Sam jumped to his feet as they approached.

“Thank you for coming, sir,” Sam said. “You are welcome any time.”

Embarrassed or possibly overwhelmed, Mr. Matchel simply nodded. Nelson and the elderly man shuffled out of the room.

“That went well,” Sam said.

Pierre raised his eyebrows to Sam, and they both laughed.

“Prejudice is just a way of saying ‘I don’t know you,’” Jeraine said.

“That’s good,” Aden said. “Are you quoting someone?”

“The great songwriter Jeraine Wilson,” he said. He sang the line from the song. “Know him?”

Aden shook his head as if he’d never heard of Jeraine, and everyone laughed.

“Come in,” Delphie said.

As she did every night, Delphie encouraged the dinner stragglers to move closer together now that the children, studiers, and others had left. Because her school didn’t start for a few more days, Jill was able to stay. She moved with Valerie, Mike, and Jeraine closer to Delphie. Pierre picked up Nelson’s tea and cupcake, as well as his own, and carried them across the room to where Delphie was sitting. Jill, Sandy, and Aden moved in closer as well. Heather and Blane sat next to Nelson’s empty chair. Jacob came in with a pitcher full of water and a thermos decanter of decaffeinated coffee.

They filled their cups. Jacob returned with hot water and a selection of tea bags. He sat down next to Jill.

“I believe that Pierre has something to tell us,” Delphie said.

Surprised by her words, Pierre looked at Delphie. She gave him an even smile.

“I wondered how you were doing,” Sam said. “Burying your father could not have been easy.”

“Well …” Pierre said.

“Going back to France for the first time since your wife was killed,” Blane added.

“That was harder,” Pierre said. “Yes. Uh … Well, as you can imagine, I was welcomed with open arms and ready knives. A kind of ‘Glad you’re here, when are you heading back?’”

“Why is that?” Heather asked.

“Oh,” Pierre said with a sigh. “As the husband of the heir to the head of the order, I technically can take over the Templars.”

“Do you want that?” Valerie asked.

Pierre gave her a long look. He shook his head and didn’t respond.

“You aren’t sure?” Heather asked.

“Oh, I know that I don’t want to be head of the Templars,” Pierre said with a laugh. “I just … well, there’s Nelson to think of. If I walk away completely …”

“I am capable of making my own decisions,” Nelson said as he walked into the room.

“You want to be the head of the Templars?” Pierre asked.

“Not a chance,” Nelson said with a laugh.

Everyone laughed at his tone and quick reply. Pierre smiled.

“What is on your mind, Pierre?” Delphie asked.

The room became very quiet. Nelson sat down next to his father. He reached for the hot water to warm his tea.

“There is a lot,” Pierre started.

“English, Papa,” Nelson said softly.

“Oh, I am sorry,” Pierre said. “I have been so wound up … But you don’t need to burden your life with this. Please …”

“This is how we do it,” Sam said. “We make an effort to talk through things. If anyone has a difficulty or decision to make, we sit here and talk it through. I can assure you that if any of the people who left wished to speak, they would be here.”

“You talk through everything?” Nelson asked.

“Not everything,” Jacob said. “Anything is a better word. Anyone wants to speak about anything can bring it up here. Please, Mr. Semaines …”

“Pierre, please,” Pierre said.

“Don’t feel like you need to bare your soul to us,” Jacob said.

“Actually, it might help me quite a bit,” Pierre said. “But first, I was instructed to ask the Oracle …”

“Oh God,” Delphie said.

“Exactly,” Pierre said. “I was instructed to ask if the Oracle could see a divine future for the Order.”

Delphie looked at Pierre. She squinted and looked down at her hands.

“I can go get your cards,” Nelson said.

“She doesn’t need the cards,” Jill said. “They are just a prop. She is a true Oracle. What comes to her just comes.”

Nelson looked at Jill, and Jill nodded. They looked at Delphie.

“Are you able to see?” Pierre asked.

Delphie squinted at Pierre and then looked at Blane.

“Do you still have it?” Delphie asked.

Nodding, Blane got up. He looked at Heather.

“Hall closet,” Heather said.

“Oh, sorry, that sword?” Sandy asked.

Blane nodded.

“I moved it to the basement closet,” Sandy said. “I know it was in a bag and wrapped with protection stuff but we have curious kids. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt and …”

“Tidying?” Heather asked.

Sandy blushed. Sandy’s favorite thing was to go through closets and clean out the junk. It was a regular occurrence to find something you loved moved to somewhere more “appropriate.” Valerie laughed. She’d been on the receiving end of the moving object more times than she could count.

“I can …” Sandy said.

Heather blinked at Sandy and a long thin black bag appeared in her hand. Blane took it from her.

“Parlor tricks?” Aden asked.

“I am a Goddess?” Heather asked, laughing. “Where is your respect?”

Sam cleared his throat to speak. She pointed at him before he could remind Heather that they made every effort to not use powers in the house.

“Point taken,” Heather said. “I was just showing off.”

“Well don’t,” Sam said.

“Where’s my respect?” Heather asked with a laugh.

“My house,” Sam said. “My rules.”

“Actually …” Delphie said.

Everyone laughed.Shaking his head at them, Blane unwrapped the sword and held it out to Delphie. She gestured toward Pierre. Blane held the sword out to Pierre.

Still laughing at Delphie’s joke, Pierre blinked a few times before he really saw the sword in front of him. Nelson looked at the blade and then up at Blane.

“Where did you get that?” Nelson asked.

Pierre hopped to his feet.

“Have you touched this blade?” Pierre asked. “Actually touched the metal.”

“I have,” Blane said.

“Anyone else?” Pierre asked.

Blane looked at Heather, and she shook her head. She looked at Sandy, and Sandy shook her head. As if called, Abi walked through the doors. She looked at the sword and each of the people in turn.

“Where is your Grandfather?” Abi asked Heather.

“He went back to Olympia,” Heather said. “Something about something.”

Abi raised her eyebrows.

“Mostly, I think he went to brag,” Heather said with a nod. “Do you need him?”

“Absolutely not,” Abi said. “I would send you away, but …”

Abi snapped her fingers, and the door to the dining room closed. She pointed to Jill.

“You can either call your father now or he will not be able to come here,” Abi said.

“Do we need him?” Jill asked.

“This is an object of power,” Abi said. “He will know about it.”

“I’d like to hear what he has to say,” Pierre said. He looked at the blade and then at Jill. “His father commissioned the blade.”

“Perses,” Jill said.

The Titan God of Destruction appeared. He was fully armed and dressed in the armor of a Titan warrior. His broad sword was in his hand. He looked at Jill and then walked to the sword in Blane’s hand.

“Is this what I think it is?” Perses asked.

He looked at Pierre who shrugged. He looked at Blane.

“How is it that this human can hold the blade?” Perses asked.

“It’s coated,” Blane said.

“I didn’t want anyone to injure themselves,” Heather said.

“I wore gloves when I took it,” Blane said.

Abi looked at the Titan directly.

“I see,” Perses said.

“Is this Uranus’ blade?” Nelson asked.

“It is Gilfand’s,” Abi said. “He had it made after Uranus and Gaia had all those children.”

Jill shook her head as if she was confused.

“My grandparents,” Perses said. Seeing everyone’s confusion, he sighed and added, “My grandparents had six children. They almost immediately had eight others, including me.”

“An infestation,” Abi said.

“Gilfand created the blade so that they couldn’t use their magic against him,” Perses said. “Couldn’t take over from him and Abi.”

“You didn’t need something like that?” Heather asked Abi.

“I would never give children a weapon that could destroy me,” Abi said. “I was only in danger of being annoyed. But Gilfand isn’t as strong as I am.”

Abi sighed and shrugged.

“We have that in our line,” Pierre said. “We are immune to magic.”

“Imagine that,” Perses said, mildly.

“What are you saying?” Pierre asked. “Speak directly.”

Not used to speaking to humans, Perses shrugged. He brushed at Pierre as if he were brushing and ant off his arm. Heather stood in support of Pierre, but Abi walked to Perses.

“Lord Perses,” Abi said. “Why does Pierre’s line hold the same as this weapon?”

“If they don’t know …” Perses said.

Abi touched Perses’ arm, and the Titan looked deep into her eyes. Everyone watched in rapt silence. Something was happening, they just weren’t sure what. He seemed to sigh. After a moment, he broke Abi’s gaze.

“Excuse me,” Perses said. “Abi was reminding me of something dear and important to me.”

Perses nodded.

“Your ancestor is a child of the creature that goes by ‘Gilfand,’” Perses said. “Direct descendant. He refused to make the sword if he and his line weren’t covered by the properties of the sword.”

“It’s called ‘Cronus blade,’” Pierre said.

“It wasn’t always,” Perses said with a shrug. “Where did your father get it?”

“I …” Pierre said. He shook his head. “I’m not sure. I thought that the sword was never given to the person who had it made or possibly two were made.”

Abi shook her head.

“Gilfand,” Abi said.

Gilfand appeared before her. He was wearing silk finery and looked like he’d been resting. He looked at Abi and then saw the sword.

“Hey!” Gilfand said in his distinctive accent. “My sword!”

He held out his hand as if he expected Blane to set the sword into his hand. Abi rolled her eyes at him.

“We were discussing how you lost this sword,” Abi said. “I thought you might tell them.”

For the first time, Gilfand noticed the others in the room. He nodded to Heather and Perses, but his eyes glided over the others. He touched Delphie’s shoulder.

“Did my ancestor make two swords?” Pierre asked.

Gilfand snorted at Pierre.

“I’ll take that as a ‘No,’” Pierre said. “Did he steal it?”

Gilfand gave Pierre a defiant look. Abi rolled her eyes.

“My darling Gilfand and your ancestor were tricked out of the blade by Bernard of Clairvaux,” Abi said. She nodded to Nelson. “Your ancestor, Nelson. You look like him, only you are bigger, stronger, and gratefully, saner.”

Gilfand gave Nelson an appraising look. Pierre looked at his son, and Nelson nodded.

“We always believed that the blacksmith was deceived by the order,” Abi said.

She gave Gilfand a side look.

“Yes, but he kept the sword,” Gilfand said.

“That was the thing,” Abi said. “Gilfand ordered the sword, and endued it with certain powers to deal with our annoying children. When Bernard discovered the purpose of the blade, he decided the order needed the blade to protect them.”

“From magic?” Pierre asked.

“A side effect of the charm on the blade is that the owner is immune to the repercussions of his actions,” Perses said.

“Totally unintended,” Gilfand said.

“No weapon or blade has carried this charm since this blade,” Perses said.

Pierre nodded.

“How did you get it?” Nelson asked.

“I took it from your father,” Blane said.

“Oh,” Pierre said. He fell back into his chair. Looking stunned, he said again, “Oh.”

“Oh?” Perses asked.

“As long as the order held complete possession of the blade, they were immune to the repercussions of their actions,” Abi said.

“Everyone was killed because I took the blade?” Blane asked Abi. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It’s not your fault,” Abi said. “You did what was needed to save your family and many others from sure doom.”

“But Alex was there!” Jill said. “She and her husband, and Dad and Hecate, and Heather, and …”

Perses and Abi shook their heads.

“We are no match to the protection wielded by sword,” Heather said in a low voice.

“That’s why they only came with forty guys,” Blane said.

“And swords,” Aden said.

“What happened in that garage?” Blane asked.

“The repercussions of their actions came out upon their heads,” Delphie said.

“Some were really gruesome,” Blane said. “I mean, they showed me the pictures because they said it was my fault. More than a few of them were cut apart alive.”

“Many of them had more current actions,” Delphie said.

“But why should they have pay the bill for what their ancestors?” Nelson started.

Delphie shook her head.

“These were not what you might call ‘good people.’ They knew that they were free from … repercussions,” Pierre said mildly. “They used this to create large empires of violence and cruelty. This is one of the reasons your mom and I left the order. We couldn’t stand worshiping one set of rules and practicing another because we were ‘immune.’”

“And now?” Heather asked.

“They are all dead,” Delphie said. “If the order continues, it will be clear of this criminal stain.”

Her eyes flicked to Blane.

“You have cleansed the order,” Delphie said.

“Have I endangered my family?” Blane asked. His eyes went to Pierre. “Are they coming after you?”

Pierre’s eyes went to the blade. Perses’ hand dropped onto Blane’s shoulder with a thud.

“You have possession of this blade,” Perses said. “You cannot feel the repercussions of this action.”

“But I don’t want that,” Blane said, his voice rising. “Live or die, I stand in the glory of my actions.”

He nodded to Sam.

“You taught me that, Sam,” Blane said.

“There is only one thing that can be done,” Delphie said.

As if she was making a decision, she looked at Heather and then at Perses. She shook her head before looking at Gilfand.

“I’ll do it,” Abi said.

“If you destroy the blade …” Blane said.

“Trust me,” Abi said.

She took the sword from Blane’s hands and disappeared. Everyone in the room held their breath. After what seemed like an age, Abi reappeared.

Heather pointed to Gilfand.

Abi held out her hand and blew.

“What was that?” Jill asked.

“No one can follow Abi’s trail, now,” Perses said. “She has hidden the blade either in time or in space. Will you look for it?”

“I haven’t actually missed it,” Gilfand said. “Especially since the Titan purge.”

Perses nodded. Gilfand shrugged.

“Is that how Maughold got the Sword of Truth?” Heather asked.

“Are you asking me is I might have given Queen Fand’s child — a child, I might add, who had been stolen at five years old by the Romans and brutally abused by Patrick all of his life — an object of power to help him find his way?” Abi asked.

No one said anything in response. After a moment, Jill spoke up.

“He wasn’t very nice to Katy and Paddie,” Jill said.

“He wasn’t,” Abi said. “I am sorry for that. He felt that he had to test them to see if they were strong enough to carry the weapon.”

“It wasn’t his to give,” Perses said.

Abi rolled her eyes at Perses, and he looked every bit the annoying chid.

“I gave it to him,” Abi said. “Are you saying that it was not mine to give?”

Perses cleared his throat. Abi raised her eyebrows and he shook his head.

“Maughold used the sword to clear his mind of his traumatic experience,” Abi said. “Once his mind was clear, he was to find a suitable recipient. I believe he has found such a recipient.”

Abi raised her eyebrows to Pierre. He looked at her for a moment before nodding in agreement.

“I’m sure you’re right,” Pierre said. “Paddie is so young.”

“By modern standards,” Abi said. “True. But many of the Templars went to war at five or six years old. Plus, Paddie and Katy are more than they seem. Together, they could easily conquer the world.”

Jill snorted a laugh. Abi looked at her.

“And, they are just small children,” Abi said.

Everyone grinned.

“Unless you need me?” Gilfand asked.

“You may return to your pleasures,” Abi said.

Gilfand and Abi hugged. He disappeared.

“Will the order continue?” Pierre asked.

“That is another question,” Delphie said.

“Wait, what happened in the garage?” Jacob asked. “I ask because I know that Blane is going to feel bad about it.”

Jacob looked from face to face. No one seemed to know what had happened in the garage.

“I can only tell you what I see,” Delphie said.

They fell silent and waited for her to continue.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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